German Lawmaker Calls for Ukrainian Refugees to Work or Return Home

Alexander Dobrindt wants migrants to stop relying on Berlin’s generous welfare benefits – or go home

A senior politician from the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) has suggested that the German government should offer job opportunities to Ukrainian refugees and deport those who refuse to integrate.

Alexander Dobrindt, the Chairman of the CSU Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag, told Bild on Saturday that it’s time for Berlin to review its social welfare policies and demand “stronger cooperation obligations for asylum seekers when it comes to taking up work.”

“More than two years after the start of the war, the principle must now apply: take up work in Germany or return to safe areas of western Ukraine,” Dobrindt said. “There must be an offer of work and this must be part of an integration effort.”

According to Eurostat, as of March 2024, around 1.3 million Ukrainian refugees were residing in Germany, at least 250,000 of whom were believed to be men aged 18 to 60, national media reported. Unlike refugees from other countries, Ukrainians in Germany are entitled to a ‘citizen’s benefit’ of €563 ($610) a month – a level of support significantly higher than in other EU member states. Deutsche Welle reported earlier this year that the employment rate among Ukrainian refugees in Germany is only 20%, apparently one of the lowest compared to other host nations.

Several regional interior ministers recently urged the federal government to abolish what they describe as generous financial handouts to Ukrainian refugees – claiming that benefits are making it more difficult for Kiev to recruit new soldiers for the conflict with Russia.

Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, argued last week that Berlin should be incentivizing draft-eligible Ukrainian men to return home. His counterpart from the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Thomas Strobl, suggested that the handouts may be hindering “Ukrainians’ defensive fight” by sending the wrong message to able-bodied Ukrainian men. The interior minister of Brandenburg, Michael Stuebgen, and his counterpart from Hesse, Roman Poseck, have expressed similar opinions in recent weeks.

Ukraine has been struggling to find new recruits as its armed forces have been facing heavy casualties. This spring, Kiev tightened its mobilization rules and lowered the draft age from 27 to 25. The draft campaign has been marred by widespread dodging and allegations of corruption. 

Kiev has attempted to bring draft dodgers back to the country by denying them consular services abroad and the ability to update their ID papers outside of Ukraine. Some senior Ukrainian officials have also stated that they want Western countries to send draft dodgers back home.